Coronavirus & Insurance

Given the current concerns surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it is important that we keep you informed of the current position regarding insurance cover for practices.

The following information represents the current position, but should the situation change, we will send a further communication.

Business Interruption

We have now seen the majority of mainstream insurers announce their position on Coronavirus, although to date there has been no joined-up insurance industry announcement on the topic. We appreciate that the following information isn’t what you want to hear, but we feel it is important to clarify the situation.

Unfortunately, there is no cover for lost income if a business needs to close as a result of Coronavirus (or suffers a general downturn in business), regardless of whether the closure is specific to the business, or on a wider scale. This situation is not unique to practices, as it applies to all sectors. In addition, the fact that the Government has made Coronavirus a “Notifiable Disease” does not change the situation with insurers as things stand, despite some reference to this in the media.

Although our policy, like others, does cover some very specific outbreaks (such as legionnaires emanating from the water supply within a practice), the intention of commercial insurance policies is only to cover very specific diseases which originate within the practice (or nearby). The intention is not to cover wider outbreaks / pandemics. The rationale is that insurers have never set pricing to account for the potential of billions of pounds worth of business losses, for risks such as wide-scale disease, or an outbreak of war.

In a similar way, if a practice could not operate due to equipment shortages (for example face masks for dental practices), then business interruption insurance would not provide cover.

For NHS practices, we are also trying to establish if they would penalise funding for a practice, during a shut down. We have no definitive response on this from the NHS, as things stand (we appreciate that this topic won’t be relevant for all readers).

We continue to monitor the position of the insurance industry to see if the situation changes. In addition, we will update you if we see any movement by the Government to provide more certainty for SME’s.

Liability

There is no exclusion relating to Coronavirus. Subject to the usual terms and conditions of policies, the liability section of practice insurance would help to defend the practice if there were allegations of causing a patient (or employee) to contract Coronavirus.

However, in order to pay damages, the practice would have to be proven negligent in some way, before any such claim could be considered under the policy. For example, if a practice permitted staff to travel to areas which are against World Health Organisation (WHO) or Government (Foreign Office) advice, or if the practice were found to be negligent in passing the disease to a member of the public.

If the accusation was that disease was spread during treatment, then Professional Indemnity cover may be better placed to respond to this. Either way, it would be extremely hard to prove that a practice caused the spread and was negligent.

Locum Insurance

For those practices with locum insurance arranged through Lloyd & Whyte, there is no exclusion relating to Coronavirus. It would be included like any other illness, subject to application of your deferment period and the policy terms and conditions. We cannot comment on other providers’ stance.

Risk Management

We recommend following government advice which can be found here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/eprr/coronavirus/

This includes advice for the public and also (further down the page) specific advice for primary care.

For those travelling abroad

This is a link to the latest advice from the FCO: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

This site is being updated with the latest advice, the importance of checking which countries you shouldn’t travel to (or transit through), and a link at the end about travel insurance advice.

Further Updates

Understandably, we are being inundated with calls relating to this topic, so we hope this helps to explain the situation.

We will provide further updates if anything significant changes.